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A few months ago we updated some of the text in the lock tool for moderators. At that time I noted that the post notice text for the various locks could use an update to be more helpful. Right now, the post notices may lead to confusion for some users, particularly those unfamiliar with chat or meta.

Here is the text for each reason as-is:

  • Content dispute:

    This post has been locked while disputes about its content are being resolved. For more info [visit meta]($MetaUrl).

  • Off-topic comments:

    This post has been locked due to the high amount of off-topic comments generated. For extended discussions, please use [chat]($ChatUrl).

  • Historical significance:

    This question exists because it has historical significance, but it is not considered a good, on-topic question for this site, so please do not use it as evidence that you can ask similar questions here. This question and its answers are frozen and cannot be changed. More info: [help].

  • Wiki lock:

    This question's answers are a collaborative effort: if you see something that can be improved, just edit the answer to improve it! No additional answers can be added here

In addition, each lock post notice has the added text:

Read more about locked posts here.

Which is a link to a recently-minted Help Center article about locks.

I think these reasons can be improved in a few ways:

First, I think the generic links to chat and meta in the content dispute and off-topic comments post notices can be confusing for users who are just trying to follow along.

  • If discussion has moved to meta, a link to the specific meta post should be in the comments so linking to the home page on meta and expecting a user to find the correct meta post, possibly days later, is asking a bit much. Plus, the current phrasing implies that such a discussion already exists, which it may not.

  • If comments have been moved to chat, there should be a link to the specific room in the comments already. Linking to the general chat rooms listing and expecting them to find a room where a conversation has been/is going on (if such a room even exists) can also lead to some confusion.

I think it's still worth mentioning these resources but maybe in a different way:

Content dispute:

This post has been locked while disputes about its content are being resolved. You may discuss this on [meta] if you have concerns.

There's a reasonable chance that someone, a moderator or user, will have posted a link to the appropriate meta post in the comments and a moderator may also do that themselves after the post is locked. Someone creating a new discussion when one already exists is a risk with this phrasing but it can always be closed as a duplicate. I'd rather have more meta participation than less.

Side note, I just found a feature request from 2013 asking for a change very similar to this to be made, so clearly this is something that's confused people for a while.

Off-topic comments:

This post has been locked due to the high amount of off-topic comments generated. A link to a [chat] room will be posted in the comments below if the conversation was moved to chat.

While we're still linking to chat generally, we're pointing out that a room was created for the purpose and how to find a link to it.

Historical Significance:

When I read the current phrasing, it implies that there's more information about Historical Locks in the Help Center but there wasn't anything about locks at all until the Help Center article about locks was created a few months ago.

The intent of this link to the Help Center is that people would find the on-topic and don't ask pages, so I think we can make that clearer. While there's not a huge amount of information about Historical Locks specifically in the Help Center article, it does link to the FAQ and doesn't come with the risk taking them away from the site they're already on.

This question exists because it has historical significance, but it is not considered a good, on-topic question for this site so please do not use it as evidence that you can ask similar questions here. This question and its answers are frozen and cannot be changed. See [/help/on-topic] for guidance on writing a good question.

This is a bit longer but I think (along with the default link to the lock article) it will be clearer to readers.

Wiki Locks

I think the Wiki Lock post notice is pretty much fine on its own. It's been clarified a couple of times to get where it is. It just needs a period at the end.

This question's answers are a collaborative effort: if you see something that can be improved, just edit the answer to improve it! No additional answers can be added here.


If you have any suggestions for improvement or you think these changes are problematic, let me know an answer. Please put one lock wording suggestion per answer for ease of response!

  • The name "Offtopic comments" also irks me; can that be changed? – Sonic the K-Day Hedgehog Jun 5 '19 at 6:20
  • Also, the link to the Help Center in the historical significance notice was just a very quick change: it used to link to the old /faq page. I bet your link was the intent of that notice back when that page existed. – Sonic the K-Day Hedgehog Jun 5 '19 at 6:22
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    Given the tools we have for moving comments to chat and the dedicated controversial post notices on comment-heavy sides, is the off-topic comments lock something that is (still) frequently used? I don’t think I have ever seen it in use and I moderate a quite comment-heavy side (Academia). – Wrzlprmft Jun 5 '19 at 8:07
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Can we extend the notice for the historical lock a bit to cover general messes?

I do not know how relevant this is for the network as general, but only half of the historical locks I apply are for reasons that completely match the post notice. The other half is for exceptional cases, where the question may be suitable in its current state, but the general shape of things (including answers, in particular) is a big mess that cannot be reasonably solved with edits or deletions. For example:

  • The question was radically edited several times, receiving answers to each version, which in turn received several upvotes. Neither of the answers are completely comparable with each other (due to answering different questions). Choosing any version of the question as the definite one would require extensive editing or deletion of answers or leaving answers whose content and votes only make half sense given the current state of the question. Since this would be rewriting the entire Q&A from scratch, which leads to several conflicts, it’s better to lock the question (and start with a fresh question in case anybody cares).

  • The question contained unnecessary explicit accusations against an individual. An answer debunks these and contains generally valuable points. The accusations have been removed resulting in an acceptable question, but now half the answer is somewhat off. Since both specific and general points are interwoven, this cannot be addressed in a simple edit. Moreover, votes on the answer can be expected to mostly reflect the debunking. Finally, the asker has deleted their account.

    Deleting the answer (or question) would result in loss of valuable content. Closing the question in its current state would send a wrong signal. Restoring the old state is impossible. Allowing new votes, answers, etc. to the question would result in confusion, more wrong signals, etc. Since there is no reason to continue working on the question, I apply a historical lock and tell users to ask a new clean question, if the topic is of general interest.

For the post notice I therefore suggest something along the lines of:

This question and its answers exist because they have historical significance. They are frozen and cannot be changed due to unsalvageable problems or conflicts. Please see the close notice or comments for the reasons. Do not use this question as evidence that you can ask similar questions here. See [/help/on-topic] for guidance on writing a good question.

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    Your two examples (especially the first one) sound more like "content dispute" locks, especially since you seem to be in the process of fixing those questions/answers rather than just having them rot away until the end of the world, which a historical lock is supposed to do. Those might be more appropriate than misusing the historical lock as a general lock. – Christian Rau Jun 5 '19 at 8:48
  • Agreed with this. Recently someone asked on meta why a particular locked question was considered inappropriate; in fact it was perfectly on-topic but there were other issues involved, very specific to that post and situation, even though the lock banner says "not considered a good, on-topic question ..." – Rand al'Thor Jun 5 '19 at 8:52
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    @ChristianRau: Please see my edit. I consider these situations as ones where the entire Q&A is unsalvageable and fixing the situation would be too much of an intervention. The lock in question is intended to be permanent. – Wrzlprmft Jun 5 '19 at 9:53
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    No. This is a complete change of the lock. This doesn't seem to even cover the intended usage of historical locks. And your examples don't actually seem to have any historical significance at all. – Catija Jun 5 '19 at 11:34
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    @Catija: This doesn't seem to even cover the intended usage of historical locks. – I fail to see this. The only sentence that is missing is “it is not considered a good, on-topic question for this site” and that should is replaced by something that includes it (“unsalvegeable problems …") and is redundant to a close notice anyway. – Wrzlprmft Jun 5 '19 at 13:26
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    There's rarely "unsalvageable problems". They're just off topic but somehow special. – Catija Jun 5 '19 at 13:28
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    @Catija: And your examples don't actually seem to have any historical significance at all. – I agree that my examples do not demonstrate historical significance per se: Some of these messes have no lasting value and can safely be deleted. However other questions can be something that a community wants to keep. Anyway, what do you suggest to do with a question that is just a convoluted mess of valuable information that cannot be disentangled? – Wrzlprmft Jun 5 '19 at 13:33
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    The lock is intended to be used for posts that should be deleted but aren't because there's something extra special about them. Neither of your examples seem to fit that. If you want to create a new type of lock, make a FR but this isn't the solution to the problem you have. – Catija Jun 5 '19 at 13:35
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    There's rarely "unsalvageable problems". They're just off topic but somehow special. – Maybe replace unsalvageable with: “the moderators chose not to try to salvage the question for some reason”. If there is no reason not to salvage a question, it should be salvaged and not locked. – Wrzlprmft Jun 5 '19 at 13:38
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    You already answer that question yourself... edit or create a new question. Doesn't matter who asks it. – Catija Jun 5 '19 at 13:38
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    the moderators chose not to try to salvage the question for some reason - That's still not really why we have historical locks. They're designed for content that wasn't explicitly off topic at the time and that is now but that is so iconic, removing it would impact the history of the site, so we retain it. There's nothing to "salvage", they're just off topic and we're choosing not to delete them. Two tests for this lock - 1. is it off topic? 2. Is it "historic" and special somehow. If we get rid of those, it's a different lock, hence my suggestion that you ask for a new lock type. – Catija Jun 5 '19 at 15:40

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